I want to build my first hydroponic system. I’m looking for the easiest one to build and operate because my budget is limited and I have to work long hours.
I’m no stranger to limited budgets and long hours. Hydroponic systems can seem daunting at first, but don’t worry they don’t have to be elaborate affairs. One of the simplest hydroponic systems is called a Deep Water Culture. Here is a rough explanation of how one works.
Basically it’s just a basin filled with a couple inches of water. Anything from a plastic drawer to a kiddy pool works great. Use an aquarium pump(s) with diffuser stones to oxygenate the water. The more oxygen the better. Roots will die if they don’t get enough O2. House the plants in something like one gallon plastic containers. The kind found in plant nurseries are great examples. But anything about that size and made from plastic will work. Plastic coffee cans, children’s sand pails, discarded food grade containers are all great substitutes, so just use your imagination.
The important thing is that you cut or drill as many one centimeter diameter holes or slits into the lower half of the containers as you possibly can. This is how the oxygenated water will flow through the containers. The more holes the better. You want the containers to basically act like sieves. If the water stagnates inside the containers the roots will die. Also, be sure to smooth the edges of your holes and slits to avoid tearing the roots unnecessarily.
Fill the containers with an inert medium like lava rocks, grow stones, or rockwool. The roots will grow down through the medium and out into the surrounding water. As far as the plants are concerned they might as well be growing in open ground and have all the room in the world to spread their roots out. So there will be no need to transplant them to larger containers later on.
For nutrients use a complete water soluble fertilizer system designed for hydroponics. To make things simple start out by using a full strength dosage when you first fill the basin and then use plain water to maintain a consistent depth. After two weeks dump out the water and start over. This will help to reduce a nutrient salt buildup that will harm your plants. Or, you can simply use a quarter strength nutrient mixture for the whole two weeks. Again dump out the whole batch every two weeks and start anew.
I used a DWC for my first hydroponic system and loved it. I tried others like nutrient flows techniques, flood systems, drip emitter systems, aeroponics, even passive wick style gardens, but I always turned to the DWC method when I wanted something reliable with low cost/maintenance requirements.
P.S. I assume you’re using an electric light source. Be sure to take measures that it won’t fall into the water. Cannabis is great but it isn’t worth getting yourself, or others, electrocuted.